Is it not the right of students of color to have faculty who look like them? Is it the presumed destiny of these students to feel that they are not worthy of the same rights as white students, who are more likely to have mentors, associates, and individuals with a common cultural background and disposition? I never had a black professor in my class until I entered the class as a teacher. I am proud that Harding continues to address the issue of race, culture, and society by bringing in speakers to discuss their past and present plight; but what is a school saying about race when it makes little effort to recruit and hire minority teachers? I am ashamed of Harding for not taking care of this problem. Of course this is not just a Harding University problem.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Encourage white professors to work closely with and mentor minority students. Five months ago I was asked to speak at Harding to the black alumni association. I recall a current black student telling the group that when he meets with Harding faculty, they appear to be interested in him and often claim to like his work; however, he went on to say that many cannot relate to him; white teachers jokingly will make racial statements but pass them off as a joke.
2. Bring in a visiting professor of color.
3. Wine and dine promising black candidates.
Here is what one black professor who attended the Professors of Color Conference four years ago had to say:
1. “We can’t find black professors, they don’t exist”. That’s a flat out lie. They do exist. They go to good schools, do great work, and then apply for jobs, only to be told that they aren’t qualified for the position. Most of them do not get a chance to be interviewed, even by academic departments that have not hired or tenured a person of color in over 120 years. I have many friends RIGHT NOW who are highly qualified to teach at the top universities, but they aren’t getting a second look when they send in their applications.
2. “The ones who apply for hiring or tenure are just not qualified. Therefore, we can’t quite justify keeping them here.” – There is not a more insulting statement in the world, nor one that is more indicative of the mentality that embraces white supremacy. The idea that there is a job that hundreds of people have done, mostly white men, in which THERE IS NOT A PERSON OF COLOR ON EARTH QUALIFIED TO DO THAT JOB implies that you’ve not come to terms of the shear insanity of such a conclusion. Given America’s history of racism and exclusion, it is far more likely that this history of exclusion plays a powerful role in the fact that many people are being systematically shut out of these opportunities. The environment was built by racists to promote and support the success of one ethnic group over another (take a look at an old picture of your own campus from, say, 1950….see any black folks in that picture?).